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About this series
The Four Great Invitations
Lessons from My First 50 Years with Jesus
Do you have a mentor? That one person with lots of life know-how you completely trust for sound wisdom and guidance? Well, if not, in this series, Chip will be that mentor for us as he shares some insightful experiences he’s learned from - through 5 decades of walking with Jesus. He’ll unpack how these lessons are rooted in 4 essential invitations Jesus challenged His disciples with throughout the Gospels. Don’t miss how these biblical insights can encourage, motivate and comfort you through all aspects of life.More from this series
The fourth relationship is with fellow believers. What does it look like? What does an authentic follower, a disciple look like? They are serving in love. He says, “Love must be sincere.” You might put an underline under that. Literally it’s without hypocrisy. He says, “You want to have great relationships with other believers? Take off your mask. “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good, be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” And then I don’t have time to develop it but there are about thirteen participles that all have the force of a command, of honoring one another, caring for one another, praying for one another, financially helping one another.
This isn’t like I’m in a small group and we sit around in a circle, “How did your week go?” “My week went okay. Is your week okay?” “What did you have for question number four?” “I had ‘God’.” “Cool, great answer. How about you? For question five, what did you have?” “I had ‘Jesus’.” “Oh, well, that’s really great.” “Okay, now, how are the 49ers doing? Have you heard about the draft?” Or, you know, “What’s on sale?”
No, these are the kind of relationships where the real you shows up and you meet real needs that are sacrificial, and they are not convenient. And you say to another group of people in the body of Christ, “My time is your time. My money, when needed, is your money. My heart is your heart whenever you need it. I will lay down my life for you the way Jesus laid down His life for me.” And when you ever get to experience that, I’ll tell you, unbelievers will look at it like, “What in the world is going on here? You’re not those little religious people.” Serving in love. The real you meets real needs for the right reason in the right way.
And not only is it so attractive, but it answers that deep question that we have: how do you experience authentic community? Right? I mean, the experts, at least in America, probably beyond, all the experts say the number one relational issue in America today is loneliness. We have never been more connected to information and less connected to one another. Suicides are up, anxiety is up, struggles are up. What we all long for – I mean, it’s an amazing gift. If you just get, like, even two or three people in your life that love you for you and that would do whatever for you, it changes everything.
And, see, that’s what a disciple is. It’s not about how many times, okay, gosh, I only read two chapters. Oh, gosh, what shall I do? I’m supposed to read three chapters a morning. And someone said a proverb, I didn’t try the psalms. I did this. And, gosh, I can only give 9.5 percent. Or, I gave eleven percent, I guess God loves me more. You know?
Being a follower of Jesus is you have come and found rest. You are following Him and you abide. And the Spirit of God begins to enlighten the Word of God. And you talk honestly from your heart. And when you mess up, you just own it and He forgives and cleanses.
And then you get in a group in community like is so important around here. And you receive it with someone who actually gives you a hug and eye contact that you realize this invisible God shows up – how? Through His body.
We sing things like, “He’s our hands and He’s our feet,” but it’s for each other. It’s real.
You know, it’s not just helping all the people in need and giving away food. Those things are awesome.
Can you fathom what would happen if God would awaken a new generation to the reality of Jesus? Well, how do you do that? You come, you follow, you abide, and then we make disciples.
Finally, he talks to us about our relationship with unbelievers in a fallen world especially. And we supernaturally respond to evil with good.
Some of you are, actually, all of you are way younger than me. And if you have not yet been betrayed in a really big way, don’t hold your breath; it’s coming. And it happens inside or outside the Church. So, how do Christians, how do genuine followers respond to the evil that is aimed at us? And the heat is going up in this culture especially.
Well, here’s what a disciple does: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Don’t be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Don’t be conceited; do not repay evil for evil."
What if he actually gave us five relationships based on grace with a biblical response that you could actually measure?
And so, we created an e-learning system about ten years ago, “True Spirituality Online.”
And, like, there are messages on each one of those areas. And you can do like a six or seven-minute video. And it’s like, “You know, I just want R12 lite.” There’s a, like a forty, forty-three-minute video. There’s just the audio, there are the notes for each one, there’s a small group there if you say, “Hey, you know what? I want to become a real disciple and I want to make disciples. I’m going to jump in.” And you can do that. It’s all without charge.
You’ll notice in your bulletin, it says, “The four great invitations, a personal assessment.”
Here’s what I’d like you to do. Imagine yourself blindfolded, taken in a car, and then you can tell, they put you on a plane, and then you land somewhere and it’s in a dark room and then the lights are turned on, they take off the blindfold, and they say, “You’ve got two days to get to Chicago.” What is the very first thing you’ve got to do? What do you got to do? You’ve got to find out where you’re at! You’ve got to find out: Where am I at right now? Here’s my question: Where are you at right now in making disciples? You can’t impart what you don’t possess.
You’ve got to be what you want others to become. If you don’t know where you’re at, it’s just, you know, like a shotgun. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and by God’s grace He does use that. So, I would just encourage you, you know, not here but get a quiet place and just do that little assessment. And it’s not in any way to go, “Oh, wow. I sure am not the disciple I wish I was.” No, it’s just to say, “I thought I was here and, oh, in this one area I’m over here.”
Or some of you have this strict conscience, “And I thought I was here,” and you’re going to go, “Oh, I’m here. I’m making progress.” With the groups and staff and elders, because I wanted to put this into practice, so one of the things Theresa and I did when I was a senior pastor is we would have the elders over to our home once a month. We would all eat together and just hang, you know? And hear about kids and life and all the rest.
And then Theresa went with the women in one room and I went over…I’m not sure what they did, but they loved it. And then I got with the guys and no business. And so, literally, I would, I mean, methodically, I would say, “Hey, guys, great to be with you. We are just brothers here tonight. Not trying to run anything at the church. On a scale of one to five, where are you at in surrender? Now, obviously we know at a point in time we all said yes to the lordship of Christ, but a one is God is really speaking to me about letting go, surrendering something, and you haven’t. A five is God really spoke to me and you let go of something, you really surrendered. No one can say a three, because that’s a copout. Go.”
And so, I’ll never forget, one guy said, “I’m at a one right now.” Very godly man. I said, “Why?” “Because my daughter wants to be a missionary in Afghanistan, and I just, I don’t want her to go. She’s going to get killed. Or I think she’s going to get killed. But children are a gift from the Lord. I know the right answer. I don’t want to give the right answer.” “Thanks, man, we’re going to be on that.”
Over here, a five. What’s a five about? “I’ve got an amazing job; I have made a ton of money. And, yes, of course I tithe, and I give over and above my tithing and blah, blah, blah. But I realized, man, I could do a ton of good. And God is just speaking to me about, Why don’t you give out of your comfort zone instead of in your comfort zone? Everyone thinks I’m really generous, because, wow, you know, they get really big checks. They just don’t know that’s not much of what I’ve got. And I’m really excited. God spoke to me and I released that. I’m doing some, actually, a few crazy things right now and God is showing up.”
But do you understand is that, you know, the next time it might be separate from the world’s values and I might say, “Hey, where are you really struggling with the world squeezing you in?” And, you know, you can’t be with a group of men and not know, at least, some of the guys have struggled with pornography. Or, over here, it might be shopping. Over here it’s pleasing people.
And all I’m saying is there is a way to measure in an informal, loving way that is grace-based and relational where we could say, “How am I doing?” And now I want to help those Jesus has rescued like me to learn to be surrendered, because surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow. Because separate from the world’s values is how you get the very best from God and experience His will.
Because being a sober self-assessment is how you finally discover who you are and quit pretending. And because serving in love is how you really experience authentic community, and you experience God’s presence through other people.
And because supernaturally responding to evil with good gives you an actual game plan, that is not blaming or anger or ungodliness, to respond to the evil that is aimed at you, because it all comes. Does that make sense? That’s the postcard.
Now, here’s something, by Tuesday, ninety percent of everything I have said, you won’t remember any of it. That’s very discouraging. But what I have learned is, those people who take a baby step and respond to the light, wow! Then they take another baby step, and another. And they get connected. And then, here’s what you’ll learn. Oh, I shouldn’t give this away. It’s a spoiler. You’ll go, privately, you’ll never say this, “These people are as messed up as I am. There are as many posers in here as me. I thought everyone is doing great and I’m doing terrible.” And you know what will happen? God will show up.
As you turn to the back page and I want to do – give you just a head’s up on – I would say maybe the biggest breakthrough I had in terms of how do you go about this? Write the words at the top: It’s a journey. It’s a process. It takes time, intentionality. You don’t have to, you could just use one word. Some of you are going, “I can’t write that fast.” Journey, process, time, intentionality, perseverance.
I mean, this whole thing was, you know, I’ve been a Christian fifty years this month. I don’t have enough hands and toes to tell you how many times I wanted to quit. I’m so glad I didn’t.
And the breakthrough, my biggest breakthrough came, I was thirty years old, and I was in seminary. I took a little church, about thirty-five people, so I’m working and we had three children at the time. And I was completely overwhelmed trying to do everything, working out all my issues.
And there was a mentor that we kept bugging for about three years, and we had a brown-bag lunch with a guy named Howard Hendricks. And we called him Prof.
And he just walked in and we had done a couple brown-bags and he goes, “Gentlemen!” That’s how he talked. “You know what’s wrong with you?” We didn’t. “That’s why we asked you to be with us.” He says, “You’re all a bunch of overachievers and you are so performance-oriented.” And then he said, “Write this down. You will never be more loved than you are right at this second. There’s nothing you can do to get God to love you more, there’s nothing you can do to get Him to love you less. Therefore, life really is about: how are you going to say thank you?”
And then he would write in these big block letters and he wrote the word “objective” and he said, “Who do you want to be?” You guys are so into do, do, do, accomplish, accomplish, accomplish. Who do you really want to be?” And then he wrote the word “priority”. He said, “How badly do you want to be that person?”
There’s a lot of distractions, there’s lots of hobbies, there’s lots of people, there’s lots of pressures. How badly? Are you willing to say, “No, this is who I want to be.” And then he wrote the word “schedule”. And he said, “I have been in groups like this all the time and you have good intentions and you have a desire and you can say, ‘I want to be a man of God or I want to be a great husband or I, whatever.’”
And he says, “What I know is if it doesn’t show up,” the third word was “schedule”. Show me in your schedule each week where and how is it planned into your schedule for you to become that kind of person?”
And then he wrote the last word, it was “discipline”, and he said, “The difference between men and boys,” all men in the room, “is those who are willing to pay the price and do what is on their schedule when they don’t feel like it.”
And I remember driving, it’s thirty-two miles was from where I went to school out to this little community called Kaufman. And about seven or eight miles before you got there is Crandall, a dinky town back then, and it had a Dairy Queen. And I pulled off and I went into the Dairy Queen, and I can’t remember what I ordered, and sat in one of those very hard booths, and I just felt like I was at one of those moments in my life. And I took a napkin out, which is my habit when I’m going to really write something important, and I wrote, “I want to be a man of God. I want to be a great husband. I want to be a great father. I want to be a great pastor. I want to be a great friend.”
And I don’t know why, maybe it was my background and some negative experiences, “I want to stay in shape all the days of my life.” Go figure. And then I got my calendar out, and I blocked off mornings and family times and a date with my wife and meeting with my kids and more protracted time for sermons. Because I had enough ability once I did all my study to do a pretty good sermon with all the other demands without that last ten or fifteen percent.
And I put it all in my schedule and then I had a crisis, because I looked at my schedule and it’s like, sixty-five or seventy percent full and I haven’t done my to-do list. I said, “Lord, this is not going to work, because I can’t get my to-do list done when only some of these are in there now, and this is really scheduled.” And I heard the Holy Spirit say, “So, are you getting your to-do list done now?” “No.” “Okay, well, here’s the issue, Chip. Who you become will be one-hundred-x more important than anything you ever accomplish.”
And it was Dallas Willard who said, “Who you become is the greatest gift that you will ever give to others and to our world.” And so, I went on that journey. I did it very imperfectly but I blocked off those times, I put it in my calendar, found two or three guys that I could work out with, two or three times that I could be very open with, shared it with them. And here’s what happened. I said, “Will you show me how I can get some time?”
And for some reason with our kids, we decided we’re not going to – experiment – for two weeks, you know, we are not going to watch TV during school nights. And I thought, Gosh, if they are doing it, I probably should do it. So, they’re in bed, like, eight, eight thirty. It’s nine fifteen and it was like, Man, I am bored. I think I’ll go to bed. I woke up at five with more sleep, more energy than I ever had in my life.
I stopped watching the news. I realized it’s just different names and different tragedies that they give me every week. And found out I could go to the news stand and read the top line and I knew what happened in the world. And if I needed to know more I could read an article or ask someone or, in our day, go online. Pretty soon I just said, “Lord, I’m not doing that.” I changed one thing in my life, I got an hour and a half, almost two hours back.
And all I can tell you was I didn’t see any big, rapid, amazing change. But three years in, the guy that met with his wife and the guy that was the pastor was different than the guy three years earlier. Ten years later, the capacity grew. Twenty years later, the capacity grew. Thirty years later the capacity grew. And I remember thinking, I had all these demands in my life and if all the demands were a big pile of dirt it was like a little wheelbarrow, whoo! Wheelbarrow.
And then after two or three years, it was, “Oh, the wheelbarrow is bigger!” And then after ten years, it was a pickup truck. And after twenty years it was this, you know, this U-Haul thing filled. And the person who showed up to prepare for a message had been in God’s Word for twenty years and had a relationship with friends, very imperfectly and with ups and downs and struggles. God wants you to be a disciple.
You need a Paul, you need a Timothy, and you need a Barnabas or a Barnabette that you can say, “I’m not sure why God brought me to church this weekend, but I think I need to do what that guy was talking about, and I can’t do it alone. I need someone to help me. I need someone that, I need to get off my rear end and help someone else. And then I’ve got to have someone that will go through life with me because it’s hard.”
Here’s my question. You don’t need to do any or all of this. As I have been talking and the Spirit of God has been moving, what is the one thing that keeps coming to your mind? What is the baby step? What one thing do you say, “That’s what I need to do”? Because here is the good news: If you respond to the light that God gives you, guess what, whoo, more is coming. Respond to that, whoo, more is coming. And little by little, over time, He’s going to change you, He’s going to change me. And He, this isn’t a pipe dream. He can and will introduce and awaken the next generation to the reality of Jesus.